Despite the best efforts of the “traditional British summer time”, the skies have cleared and Sidmouth FolkWeek is officially up and at ‘em! Setting an upbeat tone for the week, two great pre-Festival shows took place yesterday. The first of them saw a far more welcome type of water-based guest as Fisherman’s Friends took to the stage and launched the good ship Sidmouth FolkWeek in rousing form, along with the deliciously creamy Devonian voice of Jim Causley in support. Then the stars came out as Barbara Dickson showed us her (folk) roots and won over hearts with her truly stunning voice.
The festive spirit continues today with a brilliant family pre-Festival show Where My Wellies Take Me. from internationally famous Devon-based children’s author, Michael Morpurgo whose previous sell out shows at Sidmouth, War Horse and Private Peaceful, were a massive hit with children and adults of all ages! Based on Clare and Michael Morpurgo’s book, this show in words and music, follows its 8-year old heroine Pippa, on a May Day ramble through local woods, farms and fields. Pippa’s lively commentary is interwoven with a wonderful mix of poetry and traditional songs of England. A celebration of nature and the English countryside, this is a beautifully evocative and engaging concert experience, narrated by Clare and Michael Morpurgo, and Natalie Walter, with songs performed by award-winning a cappella group Voices At The Door. And then the festival starts in earnest with a great first weekend with something for everyone!
The opening Ham evening concert sees Coope Boyes & Simpson delivering their final Sidmouth appearance as part of a series of farewell concerts after 25 years as the foremost exponents of a capella English roots singing. They are joined by much-loved performer Roy Bailey, the master of compassionate, political song.
Advanced tickets for the two weekend Ham headline shows on Saturday with festival favourites Spooky Men’s Chorale and with Festival Patrons Show of Hands on Sunday are no longer on sale, but it is well worth queueing for tickets on the night. Tickets will be available on the door, space permitting.
The Spookies are the gift that keeps on giving: a mighty wall of voices renowned for its Visigothic bravado, absurdist humour and eye-moistening tenderness. Show of Hands’ ever-popular annual Sunday night will be a special West Country Concert with Miranda Sykes and Dartmoor choir, Lost Sound Chorus. Dartmoor musical patriarch Geoff Lakeman, in the wake of his long-overdue debut album, delights with his concertina playing and song repertoire. Weekend daytime Ham concerts include popular crossover artists and four times BBC Radio 2 Folk Award nominees Josienne Clarke & Ben Walker who infuse ageless stories of love and loss with a blast of fresh air and Chris Wood, an uncompromising writer whose songs reveals his love for the unofficial history of the English-speaking people. His latest release So Much To Defend conveys his contemporary parables with gentle intelligence, wit and profound musical soul.
Getting straight on the dancefloor, three great roots dance party shows at The Bulverton are lined up for this weekend with cutting edge five-piece 5-piece band Mawkin fusing blistering folk, blues and rock on Friday; a Celtic Party Night double header on Saturday featuring Scots Trad Music Award winners Live Act of the Year, RURA, and all-star new generation Glasgow band Ímar featuring the prodigious talents of Mohsen Amini on concertina and Sunday night with Steamchicken plus some very special guests…possibly in the form of a Spooky entity! The dance party hub is situated next to the Festival car park, up on the hill with the iconic Sidmouth FolkWeek sign! A great place for a big night out, enjoy high-octane evening roots shows and dance parties each night from 7pm through ‘til the early hours. Everyone welcome!
Special shows also pop up throughout the weekend including a Manor Theatre special: Theatre Ballads: Horse & Bamboo Theatre, a newly commissioned piece which vividly reimagines traditional song-stories with puppetry and simple illustrations. The cast includes Kate Locksley, Bryony Griffith, Ewan McLennan and John Kirkpatrick. Voices, harmonies, stories, puppets, music and animation combine to create an evocative new look at visual theatre and folk music.
The Children’s Festival gets underway on Saturday at Blackmore Gardens with a superb line-up of Young Performers Showcases and some very special surprises including Walkabout Entertainment, Marble Maze and Do It Yourself Puppet Theatre, Pop Up Performances, Morris and Dance displays, Parachute Games, Face Painting, Dancing, The Knitting Circle, and a host of other family entertainment. Family evening shows include The Fetch Theatre Company’s East of the Sun, West of the Moon – a beautiful spellbinding puppet show inspired by a traditional Nordic story – and Ursula Holden Gill’s On This Island, an intricate weaving together of well-known storytellers’ favourite Celtic folk tales, songs, clog and Cotswold Morris Dances and the teller’s own contemporary stories.
Elsewhere…. energetic ceilidhs, folk dance, storytelling, Folk Rising Plus concerts, fRoots Cellarful Of Folkadelia series, youth sessions, traditional sessions, informal concerts, workshops and dance displays and processions, a Jig Competition, including the very special Sidmouth Horse Trials at The Hub on Sunday at 1pm with the Aardman Award being presented to the Best Beat by Aardman’s very own Peter Lord.